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Create a Vibrant Blueprint in Photoshop

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a blueprint that is based off another image. The techniques used are simple and can be used on a lot of designs.

What We Will Be Creating

The tracing technique that we are going to be using to create the final result shown below can be used in a wide variety of designs.


Getting Setup

To begin, create a new document in Photoshop (mine is 590x350px since the image I’m tracing is small). Then, open your image and place it on a new layer in the new document. Center the image using guides.

Trace Image

Document Size and Guides

Keep in mind that the blueprint will be larger than the image being traced. Also, if you want a background to show in the image, you need to create an even larger document to accommodate for the extra room.

An easy way to create guides at the center of your document is to make a selection of the entire document: Select > All (Ctrl+A). Then contract the selection by any amount: Select > Modify > Contract. Enable your rulers, View > Rulers (Ctrl+R), and click+hold to drag a guide out from the ruler. Drag the guide until it snaps in the middle of your selection.

Let’s create a background for the design. First lets select what colors to use. Since the image I’m going to be tracing is dark, I’m going to select dark colors that fit it.

333333 Foreground: #333333

111111 Background: #111111

Once the colors have been selected, grab the Gradient Tool (G) and, on the background layer, drag from the bottom left corner to the top right corner.

Gradient Fall

Color Selection

Since a blueprint is created so that a designer can get a feel for what they are going to make, selecting colors that would be in the final image will compliment the blueprint. Even though we are working backwards, the same rules apply.

Starting the Blueprint

Now that we have our background finished, lets start to work on the actual blueprint. Create a selection larger than the area you are going to trace, and create a gradient on a new layer, bottom left to top right, with the following colors:

6fb6ff Foreground: #6fb6ff

4d98fd1 Background: #4d98fd

Blueprint Background


Keep the image that you are going to be tracing above the background gradients, but when the tracing begins, keep it below any layers that have traces on them. This way, you can easily see what areas of the image you have traced so far.

Let’s add a stroke about 5px inside the blueprint. To do this, make a selection of the blue gradient you just created (Ctrl+Click the thumbnail of the layer), and make a contraction of 7px (Select > Modify > Contract). Then go to Edit > Stroke. Set the Width to 2px, the Color to white, and the Location to outside. If you don’t like how bright the white appears on the blueprint, you can decrease the layer opacity.

Blueprint Stroke


Since we wanted to create a stroke 5px into the blueprint, we contracted a selection of 7px. This is because after the stroke is applied, there will be 5px of space between the edge of the blueprint and the stroke.

Tracing the Image

To trace the image, we are going to be using the Pen Tool (P) set to Paths. To start, I’m going to trace the outside part of the cloud, and the Tutorial9 text since I want the traces around these to be thicker than the other traces.

Trace 1

Pen Tool

To learn more about the Pen Tool, read the Pen Tool Basics Tutorial.

Grab your Brush Tool (B) and set it to a 2px hard brush. With the path still active, create a new layer, select your Pen Tool (P) and right click, and select Stroke Path. Select the Brush from the drop down menu and make sure Simulate Pressure is NOT checked. Press OK to finish, and then press the Escape button on your keyboard to get rid of the pen path.

Trace Stroke 1

Repeat the process on a new layer for the smaller text, and the inner parts of the cloud, but change your brush size to 1px, since we don’t want as much emphasis on these areas.

Trace Stroke 2

Adding Measurements

Lets create some guides on the blueprint that will show the dimensions for each area of the image. The best way to find a dimension of an area is to use the Marquee Tool and make a selection.

Dimension Selection

On a new layer, use a 1px Brush or Pencil and create lines perpendicular at the tops and sides of the area.

Blueprint Guides

Next, use a 1px Pencil and create double sided arrows in between the guides.


Finally, create text in the middle of each arrow showing the size of that height or width, and delete part of the guide underneath it.

Dimension Sizes

Guides and Arrows

You may want to lower the opacity of the guides and arrows so that they don’t distract from the main part of the blueprint, the outlines.


Rotating the blueprint will help add more depth and make it stand out more. Place all of your blueprint layers inside a New Group (Layer > New > Group). Then, with the group selected, go to Edit > Free Transform (Ctrl+T). Place your cursor outside of the top right box, and rotate the blueprint a few degrees.


Creating a Light Source

Instead of having a flat blueprint, lets create a light source to add depth to our design. Make a selection of the blue gradient layer you created. Grab your Gradient Tool (G), set it to Foreground to Transparent, and set white as your foreground color. On a new layer, hold shift and drag from the bottom left corner to approximately 1/3 or 1/4 of the selection. Then, set the opacity of the layer to around 25%.

Blueprint Glow

Create a layer underneath your blueprint gradient and make a selection of the blueprint gradient. Fill the selection with black, and use Edit > Transform > Skew to drag the left side of the shadow down. Then apply a Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) with a Radius of 3.


Finishing Up

For extra effect, I’m going to create a layer above my background and use a large soft brush to create a blue glow on the upper right area of the design, and set the layer to 50% opacity.


Don’t Limit Yourself

Tutorials are for learning techniques and sharpening your skills, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Black Blueprint
Pink Blueprint

For reference, you’re welcome to grab the PSD File used in this tutorial!


  1. Add point Subtract point
    wesley14 (2 Points) August 9, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    thank you so much!! great tutorial

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Abhisnghl (1 Point) June 18, 2010 at 6:17 am

    thanx. i got a nice outcome.. cheers!

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  3. Add point Subtract point
    Sandra Cheng (2 Points) May 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    This is a very well designed tutorial.
    Thank you.

    Here’s one suggestion. For that tip about the centerpoint guides, use edit> transform instead of select>modify.
    Thanks again.

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    best articles (1 Point) March 31, 2010 at 6:31 am

    hii, this is cool works well..

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  5. Add point Subtract point

    Great tutorial, much better than some of the others I’ve seen!

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    Esteban Demarchi (1 Point) February 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    This Tutorial is awesome, i’m very very like this..! thank’s Tutorial 9 for tutorials of Quality :D

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    โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) February 3, 2010 at 2:12 am

    wow Great article, thanks!165

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    ฟังเพลง (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    wow Great article, thanks!152

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  9. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุดเดือนนี้ (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 1:33 am

    wow Great article, thanks!147

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  10. Add point Subtract point

    Great reading! Thanks for sharing

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    Ram Kumar (1 Point) September 28, 2009 at 6:39 am

    A very easy to follow blueprint tutorial. I never thought of using Photoshop for this kind of art work. Really excellent. I love every detail you provided. Thanks for the Author.

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  12. Add point Subtract point

    Man, your tutorials are fantastic, this is the best website I’ve ever seen for PhotoShop tutorials, kudos!

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    caspian (1 Point) August 5, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Tyler, I keep getting stuck at the “Starting the Blueprint” part. When I try to create a new area with the blue background/foreground, I just keep getting the black and white gradient, even after setting in the new blue colors. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? Thanks for your help.

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    tshirt-printer (1 Point) May 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks for a great tute keep them coming !

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    tshirt-printer (1 Point) May 12, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for a great tutorial , keep them coming !

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (1 Point) May 3, 2009 at 4:13 am

    Thanks for the tutorial man, the effect is cool, but its kinda hard to make, specially for newbs like me…

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  17. Add point Subtract point

    Nice idea tut9, may have to use this at some point, v.good


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  18. Add point Subtract point
    Phemix (1 Point) March 5, 2009 at 10:33 am

    kudos to you man. pls keep it up.

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    Daniel Andretta (1 Point) December 1, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    thanks for the awesome tutorial. i found it perfect for a Habitat for Humanity poster i’m making! thanks! another thing i found to make it more original, well i guess not original cause i got the idea from Mythbusters, but if you take your mouse or your wacom tablet and fill in some of the spaces in the graphic with some sketching it looks pretty awesome!

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    @Mountain/Ash: I’m glad that you liked it enough to make it a banner!

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    Mountain/\Ash (1 Point) October 19, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for the tutorial – I have always liked this effect. I have used it on a text only logo at and it work surprisingly well. Thank you.

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    @RUGRLN: There is another way that I can think of actually. It still requires that you draw out your shapes (which isn’t always a problem between custom shapes, and fonts):

    - Make your layer contents for every shape pure black (#000000).
    - Set the layer blending mode to Lighten.
    - Apply a 1px stroke in the layer effects, and make said stroke white.

    That ought to get the job done a bit faster, provided you have some shapes ready ;)

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    RUGRLN (1 Point) August 11, 2008 at 2:55 am

    I was wondering if there was another way to go about then tracing because for big images, tracing is very time consuiming. Perhaps glowing edges or find edges could do the job. Any ideas???

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    @Flow: I’m not speaking from any personal experience here, since I’m no architect or anything, but wouldn’t a program more suited for such things make more sense than Photoshop for creating a REAL Blueprint? I guess it could be done in Photoshop, but it would definitely be A LOT of work :P

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    Good job and your tutorial is great but still I don’t know what I was actually looking for. How to create a blueprint for something that does not exist yet :)? What is the real way of creating blueprints?

    This tutorial is really cool but another one on this subject would be nice or at least a little hint how to create blueprints for houses etc. there where everything has to be created from scratch. I know it’s really easy when I’ll do it using 3D application but actually I’m looking for blueprint to create 3D model, not blueprint from 3D model or other image.

    That’s my suggestion because I’m looking for a good way of creating it :)

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  26. Add point Subtract point
    Patrick Lewis (1 Point) July 23, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Awesome. Hands down, this is awesome. A blueprint was exactly what I was looking for. Kudos to you

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    Shao Cloud (1 Point) June 16, 2008 at 9:10 am

    This tutorial is fairly simple and easy to learn. But how do I apply it to the WESTMINSTER ABBEY? Argh!

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  28. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for pointing that out sock494, just fixed it ;)

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  29. Add point Subtract point
    sock494 (1 Point) June 11, 2008 at 11:02 am

    you wrote stimulate pressure instead of simulate pressure lol

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    Lucas (1 Point) June 1, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    really cool!
    you´ve been doing a great job!
    you tutorial skills are very good, and it´s easy to understand with your tips and rollovers….

    why don´t you make a composition tutorial?
    and a matching color would be nice too!!

    keep doing a good work!

    Lucas – Sao Paulo – Brazil

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    I like this, man. i like it a lot. I don’t usually make graphics from scratch in photosop exclusively, but this really beats modeling and lighting a paper in 3d.

    mad props.

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    liam (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Great tutorial, and a great exercise for working on your pen tool skills :)

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    Hip Hop Makers (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    I really like the way you put together you tutorials with roll overs. Keep up the good work

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  34. Add point Subtract point

    Glad you pointed out that statement AgentC. This is true of many things.

    @ Tyler Bramer – That’s a really good idea (combining with the Mysterious Lighting Effect Tutorial). I went ahead and did a quick mockup of my own. Here is what I got =)

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    Tyler Bramer (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I’m glad that you liked the tutorial.

    @Vega: I chose to keep the blueprint large so that it would be easier to see for the purpose of this tutorial.

    Try using effects such as the Mysterious Lighting Effect and incorporate other ideas to make it original.

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    AgentC (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    “Tutorials are for learning techniques and sharpening your skills, don’t be afraid to experiment.”

    So true… I try to do a bit of this with each tutorial I go through. Usually that’s where I come away with something useful for my own projects.

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  37. Add point Subtract point
    Vega (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Another great tutorial. Maybe a darker blue would be another great version of blueprint. The dimensions could be littler too.

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  38. Add point Subtract point
    Josh Drake (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Very nice effect. Not sure when I’d use it, but hey, it’s cool! Thanks for the tutorial!

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  39. Add point Subtract point
    Ouchast (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Indeed yet a nice tutorial from you guys at Tutorial9. Keep up the good work!

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  40. Add point Subtract point

    Really digging this tutorial Tyler! Love the black result you showed down at the bottom, it’s very nice! Great work, and another awesome tutorial!

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